Sacred 2

Buggin' out.

Around 15 hours into Sacred II, I check my stats. 2186 enemies defeated. 43 quests completed. 8.4 per cent of the main quest completed. 4.9 per cent of the map revealed.

A rough calculation based on those figures puts the full game's completion time at somewhere around 180 hours. That figure is a little misleading as I've probably been shirking some of the main storyline quests, instead cleaning up all of the side quests in each area before moving on. But you get the idea: a huge amount of content has been squeezed into Arcania's extensive environment.

That's before you take into account the six different classes and the fact four of these can partake in the light or shadow campaigns. Each campaign has a specific class, and each moral extremity offers exclusive content in the form of skills, quests and equipment. That's a lot of rat-punching, kobold-poking and spider-troubling. There's even an achievement, ‘Extremely Diligent', for completing only 40 per cent of the side quests.

This approach doesn't always seem like the best idea, though. It often feels as though quantity has been prioritised over quality in Sacred 2. Much was said about the original game's bugginess when it first hit PC, and many of those issues have been addressed here - but the lack of optimisation is still painfully obvious.

Frame-rate is the first casualty, especially when zooming out and stuttering through camera sweeps with obvious tearing in full effect. Character animations are jumpy and unnatural. The Shadow Warrior looks like Benny Hill during a dark costume phase, chasing scantily-clad high-elf nurses around. The Seraphim's half-catwalk, half-post-enema strut makes her repeated declarations that she has ‘Done my doody' all the funnier.

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"I told you, the costume’s extra. You owe me 200 quid and a hot shower."

There are problems with aggro too. Some mobs casually saunter past before suddenly noticing you once you're half a screen away, by which time you're probably at enough distance to keep on running, forsaking the single XP which many of the opening areas' monsters offer.

At the other end of the scale are the frustrating escort missions. Never my favourite task, Sacred 2's escorts reach a new level of frustration thanks to incredibly bold NPC's. Even the meekest of maidens hurl themselves into groups of slavering monsters, only to realise how much shinola they're in and race back to you - often being cut down in the process.

As these are non-essential quests there's no option to redo them, unless you've had the presence of mind to save first. Targets for these quests are often annoyingly far away, too - they propel you into new areas but offer all the more opportunities for suicide runs from your frisky charges.

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You, bear - axe somebody!

A general lack of polish pervades in Sacred 2. Every time I switched to a ranged weapon - using the innovative and otherwise effective face-buttons, modified by a triggers system -then tried to switch back to my main weapon choice of sword and shield (mapped to an unmodified A button), the unwanted bow, staff or energy pistol stuck in my hands. Even worse my character then became inexplicably rooted to the spot, refusing to move until I'd flashed up either the map or one of the menus. It's no gamebreaker, but it almost turned me into a discbreaker.

A lot has been made of Sacred's 2's humour, and a few lines of dialogue do raise a chuckle. However, as Will pointed out in his PC review, the quirky comments soon become grating rather than amusing. There are some nice cultural references here but many feel shoehorned in. When thrown together with some emo-goth babbling of the highest order about the power of trees and the mystical nature of being, it all makes for an awkward mix.

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